Local governments and nonprofits in the Portland area spent more than half a billion dollars fighting homelessness last year, a 70% increase from the year before, according to a new report.

"The number itself was shocking," John Tapogna, a senior policy advisor at ECOnorthwest, which crunched the numbers, told KOIN 6 News.

Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, which make up Oregon's Portland metro area, spent $531 million on homelessness interventions in fiscal year 2023, according to ECOnorthwest's analysis.

The huge increase was driven in part by nearly $90 million in federal pandemic relief funds, as well as a regional homeless tax approved by voters in 2020, the report shows. 

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Two bicycle officers stand near tents in Portland homeless camp

Portland Police Bureau officers respond to an argument in a homeless encampment Aug. 31, 2023, in Portland, Oregon. (Hannah Ray Lambert/Fox News Digital)

Tapogna told Fox News Digital the "revenue flows into the system are dynamic and changing constantly."

About 7,500 people in the tri-county area are living in emergency shelters or on the streets. But the report also includes more than 13,000 individuals who have recently exited homelessness and now receive rental support, as well as more than 81,000 people considered to be at risk of homelessness due to low incomes and high housing costs.

"So when you put (the expenditures) in the context of 100,000 people who this is serving, it doesn’t seem like that much money," Tapogna told KOIN 6.

The bulk of the funds were spent on temporary shelter and services, followed by housing placement, according to the report. Administration and other operating costs ate up about $50 million.

Despite the surge in spending on services, homelessness in Multnomah County has continued to grow. The county issued a press release announcing a decrease in chronic homelessness, but an "overall increase in people counted with and without shelter since 2022." There were nearly 6,300 homeless individuals in the county as of the 2023 point in time count.

Washington and Clackamas counties, however, saw their homeless populations decrease in 2023.

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"We need to see that trend reverse, just like we do with our neighboring counties," Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan told Fox News Digital in January.

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Asked about the disparity in outcomes, Ryan said Multnomah County provides the most services, which "does attract more people who are homeless."

He also pointed to the open-air drug use and dealing prevalent in Portland amid the state's drug decriminalization experiment. Oregon lawmakers have since passed a bill that will make drug possession a misdemeanor crime beginning Sept. 1. 

Tapogna told Fox News Digital that, as the response to the homeless crisis ramps up, it's "critical to keep track of who's doing what."

Man looks into an empty tent erected on a Portland sidewalk

Homelessness in Multnomah County, where Portland is located, continued to grow as of last year, despite record spending on services. (Hannah Ray Lambert/Fox News Digital)

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Not all states are careful with their tracking, the report notes.

California's leaders are in hot water after the state spent $24 billion to tackle homelessness over the past five years but failed to consistently track how the money was used or whether it improved outcomes, according to a state audit published in April.

"Not many places in the country keep this kind of detailed accounting of sources and uses," Tapogna wrote in an email to Fox News Digital. "We're the exception, not the rule."

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